Really? They're back already?
Updated: Aug 29, 2022
Well, this’ll be awkward.
Imagine this…Your relationship with your significant other is falling apart so you end it, but you’d still like to remain friends (never a good idea), so you invite them to a party a few weeks later only to have them show up with their new significant other.
Now imagine that this relationship is between The Washington Nationals and former star right-fielder Juan Soto. This is the reality this weekend for the Nats as Soto returns with his ‘new significant other.’
Photo: Getty images
On August 2, the Washington Nationals traded Juan Soto and first baseman Josh Bell to the San Diego Padres.
Yes, the Nationals did technically ‘end the relationship,’ but the writing was on the wall.
In exchange, the Nats received some of the Padres’ best prospects, including pitchers MacKenzie Gore and Jarlin Susana, outfielders Robert Hassell and James Wood, along with shortstop C.J. Abrams.
“Props to the San Diego Padres,” Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo said to media following the trade. “They’re not afraid.”
Now, less than two weeks since the trade was finalized, the Nationals (37-76, 5th in NL East) welcome Juan Soto and the San Diego Padres (63-51, 2nd in NL West) to Nats Park for a three game weekend series beginning at 7:05 Friday night.
“Going back to Washington is going to be pretty emotional,” Soto said. “I was prepared for this. I knew we were going back, so I’m more than happy to go back.”
For purely on-field reasons, I’m sure he is happy to go back…The hometown Nationals have the worst record in baseball and just traded away perhaps the best young prospect they’ve ever had (looking at you, Bryce Harper).
Soto is only 23-years old and has already won a World Series, finished top five in MVP voting the past two seasons and has been one of the hardest hitters to retire in the majors, finishing in the top two for on-base-percentage the past two seasons and is currently tied for first in the category for 2022 (.413 OB%).
In early July, trade rumors began swirling around the young phenom, but most Nats fans shrugged it off as speculation at best, thinking a long-term extension was much more likely than a trade.
However, on July 16, news broke that Soto had turned down a 14-year extension with the Nationals worth $440 million, giving more clarity as to why those “trade rumors” had surfaced in the first place.
Two days later, on July 18, Soto became the second youngest player in history to win the Home Run Derby, defeating Seattle Mariners youngster Julio Rodriguez in the final round. He was the first Nationals player to win the derby since Bryce Harper did it in 2018 in D.C. Ironically, Harper wasn’t a National for much longer after his derby title either.
It only adds insult to injury that the Nationals and its fans have to look Soto and Josh Bell in the eye this soon after the trade.
Photo: USA Today Sports
Unlike for Harper’s return, and his reappearances since, the reception for the two former Nationals players, especially Soto, should be entirely positive when they each step to the plate for the first time.
“I’ve done everything for that team,” Soto said. “Whatever I did it was thinking of that team and the fans. If they appreciate it, I will be more than glad.”